Michael Murphy is the co-founder of the Esalen Institute, a key figure in the Human Potential Movement and author of both fiction and non-fiction books on topics related to extraordinary human potential.
Michael Murphy was born in 1930 to an Irish father and Basque mother in Salinas, California.
In April 1950, while enrolled in the pre-med program at Stanford University, he mistakenly wandered into a lecture on comparative religions. This lecture so fanned the flame of his interest in the integration of Eastern and Western thought, that he enrolled in the class and subsequently began meditation.
On January 15, 1951, during seated meditation by Lake Lagunita at Stanford, he experienced what he describes as a "hinge moment", after which he dropped out of the pre-med program with a new vision for the purpose of his life.
He continued with his formal education, earning his B.A. in psychology in 1952 from Stanford University. After graduation, he was draft by the US Army and spent two years stationed in Puerto Rico as a psychologist. He returned to Stanford for two quarters of graduate studies in philosophy before he quit in 1956 to go to India.
During 1956 and 1957 Murphy practiced meditation for 18 months at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. It is likely that his ideas related to the connection between human evolution, human potential, and spiritual growth developed further here.
In 1960, while in residence at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco, he met a fellow Stanford University graduate, Dick Price. In 1962, they founded Esalen Institute together in Big Sur, California on of property owned by Murphy's family.
In 1972 he retired from actively running Esalen to do more writing. He remains chairman of the board at the institute, and continues to be a key contributor to research projects at the Esalen Center for Theory and Research. He presently resides in Sausalito, California.
In the 1980s he organized Esalen's Soviet-American Exchange Program which served as a unique form of citizen-to-citizen diplomacy. The program initiated the process that led to Boris Yeltsin's first visit to the US 1990.
In 1992 he published The Future of the Body, a massive historical and cross-cultural collection of documentation of various occurrences of extraordinary human functioning such as healing, hypnosis, martial arts, yogic techniques, telepathy, clairvoyance, and feats of superhuman strength. Rather than presenting such documentation as scientific proof, he presents it as a body of evidence to motivate further investigation.
He is also an avid golfer and has written two fictional books relating golf and human potential. His 1971 novel, Golf in the Kingdom has been in constant publication since its release and has become one of the best selling golf books of all time. It is considered by many to be a classic of sports literature. In 1992 it spawned The Shivas Irons Society, a 501(c)3 organization to explore the transformational potential of sport, of which Michael is the co-chairman of the advisory board. He is in partnership with film producer, Mindy Affrime, on the feature film, being adapted from the best-selling novel, "Golf In The Kingdom". It is being directed by Susan Streitfeld and stars David O'Hara, Mason Gamble, Malcolm McDowell and Frances Fisher. The complementary one hour TV documentary called Golfers in the Kingdom is being directed by Ellen Spiro.